The Hajj - Trip of a lifetime
For a few thousand from our province, their lifetime dreams are about to be fulfilled. They are preparing to embark on the Hajj. When I ask people "Where in the world would you most like to visit?", the answer is almost invariably Mecca. If you look at travel agent advertisements, packages to Mecca vastly outnumber all other offerings combined. Many bank or supermarket competitions offer as first prize, not a car or cash, but a trip to Mecca. For some, like our neighbour's mother, the trip to Mecca was the one and only time she travelled by plane.
Why do they go? It is certainly not for a break. On the contrary, even the required study and training for a Mecca trip takes up precious weekends for months beforehand. It is not for the scenery or the climate. Mecca is dry and sandy and unbearably hot. Nor is it for the accommodation, as most sleep dormitory-style under canvas tents. The food is often strange and unpalatable to those used only to regional cuisine. In fact, the conditions are so harsh that each year many elderly people, who have saved all their life to make the trip, do not survive it. Hajj participants are required to wear identification tags so family can be quickly notified if they die.
It is also very expensive. To join the Hajj costs about two full years' average income in our province. And, as the Saudi authorities limit participation to 0.1% of the worldwide Muslim population, it may require joining a waiting list over a decade long. Even with this limit, the sheer crush of people at some of the pilgrimage sites often results in deaths and injuries. In spite of all of these things, people long to take this trip to Mecca.
During the Hajj season, any airport in our country will be filled with women dressed in identical white veils and men in white prayer shirts. Their hearts are full of hope. If they fulfill every detailed ritual they have memorized and keep their hearts free from negative thoughts, through the heat and the crowds, they have, they believe, the chance to make an acceptable pilgrimage and a hope to gain God's acceptance.
Hajah Lily is a kindly, devout grandmother who, as her title indicates, has completed the Hajj. I recently asked her about her experience. "Oh, it was just wonderful!" she enthused, her eyes lighting up, "We forgot about everything else back home and just worshipped and worshipped. God was so close. Now I must live a new life — be diligent with my fasts, my alms and my prayers and be generous and kind." Despite this experience, she admits to real fear in the face of death."Even when I do extra fasts, when I live my very best, I cannot tell if God will accept me on the last day."
— Contributed by an APL worker in Southeast Asia
Adapted from 30 Days of Prayer website (see link below).
- While performing the Hajj, many participants sincerely desire an encounter with God. Pray for dreams and visions that will draw Muslims toward Jesus (Joel 2:28).
- Pray for divine appointments, that Muslims on their way to the Hajj would meet followers of Jesus who would witness to them.
- The Hajj culminates with Eid al-Adha, commemorating the near-sacrifice of Abraham's son, where a substitutionary sacrifice was provided by God. Pray for a desire in the hearts of Muslims celebrating this holiday to look towards Jesus as their true sacrifice.